The month of March has a reputation for being tempestuous, with its precipitation giving way to the new blooms of spring. In many ways, March is analogous to Shameless; it’s bluster and turbulence often a conduit for something more charming. It seems only fitting that Shameless’ writers will reconvene in March to begin penning season eight.
Amidst rumors of non-renewal and salary disputes, the finale of season seven felt, well, more final than the season finishers have in the past. The ending sequence of “Requiem for a Slut” showed the Gallaghers each achieving personal successes; Fiona purchasing an apartment building, Lip determined to go back to college, Ian saving lives at work, and Debbie in school for welding (Carl and Frank were busy spray painting Monica’s name in tribute, but I digress).
Though some may believe that Shameless made it’s mark by being edgy and pushing the envelope, I disagree. At its best, Shameless delves deep into the lives and psychological motivations of flawed but endearing individuals. After shifting into the comedy category following season five, that emotional exploration waned dramatically. Instead of feeling layered and robust as the characters had in seasons prior, their development was kept on the surface, more shallow than the gritty representation viewers had grown so fond of.
There’s a certain level of commitment in fans, who watch a show for years, but there is also a degree of expectation. While pulling back on drama may have paid off in awards (William H. Macy won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of Frank Gallagher), it did not do justice to the arcs of these characters that the audience has grown so close to. It seems that in order to keep the forward momentum in a well-weathered show, the writers’ best bet would be to retreat backwards to the show’s beginnings and put a focus on the characters’ internal motivations rather than external commotion.
In long-running television shows it is not unusual for characters to come and go, with story lines needing to shift and grow. However, Shameless abandoned two families that started the show with Gallaghers: The Jacksons and the Milkoviches, and never focused on building up any other complimentary units. From the start, the Gallaghers were the core but they had a community around them that allowed for diverse story lines and movement. Thankfully the Ball-Fishers have remained, but in order to establish novel plot points, the writers’ have fallen back on love interests, who are never developed with the care that the characters they had created so many seasons before were. Realistically, they cannot halt the show’s pace in order to shape the evolution of auxiliary characters, so they are left to skim the surface.
So the question is: Where do they go from here? My answer is that the writers set their intention to recreate the dramedy viewers fell in love with, rather than the comedy peppered with dramatic elements that they’ve been presenting for the past two seasons.